Shock and awe
Discovery Science,Tuesday,9.30 pm
Host: John Noble
Science has always been on the quest for answers to mankinds problems. And sometimes,desperate scientists and inventors have pushed boundaries in their quest to solve the many issues confronting mankind. Discovery Sciences new show Dark Matters takes a hard look at some of these experiments,when a few determined individuals went a bit too far to achieve a breakthrough.
The hour long programme features three different stories of 15 to 20 minutes each. In one such episode the first capsule,titled Jekyll vs Hyde,shows the world of dentistry at its worst during the 19th century. Tooth extraction using pliers and a bleeding mouth was par for the course during a dental appointment. Seeing the pain his patients went through,an amateur dentist called Dr Horace Wells experimented with nitrous oxide,or laughing gas as it is commonly known,to alleviate the pain. However,his public demonstration was less than successful and he left the profession disgraced. His young assistant continued experimenting with ether before Wells began inventing chloroform. However,the constant dosage of chloroform that he injected into himself began giving him hallucinations and he accidentally poured sulphuric acid on a woman for which he went to jail. He killed himself a week before he was declared as the inventor of chloroform that is used in almost every surgery today.
The second story features the work of Harward University fellow Wade Davis who found a living zombie in Haiti who had his own death certificate on him. He followed the living zombie to Haiti in 1982 and found a zombie maker and came back with a powder that he began researching to see how zombies were made. He stumbled upon a nerve agent called TTX and something called zombie cucumber found in Haiti that caused hallucination and amnesia and published his findings. However,his work was rejected by academicians forcing him to quit his obsession with zombies.
The last story,probably the best of the lot,tells the story of Tesla,an eccentric genius who dreamed of powering the world wirelessly through a single energy source. In 15 minutes,the story shows its potential for a Hollywood blockbuster with Teslas eccentricity,J. P. Morgan financing his ambitions so that he could get an invention that could send telegraphs wirelessly for him to make a fortune,the eventual creation of such a machine by Marconi,Teslas bitterness causing his invention to be sold as a weapon of mass destruction,the proof of this destruction lying unannounced in a devastated area in Siberia,to the F.B.I.s sweep at his office and house upon his death all coming together in an incredible sequence of events.
With such a wealth of information at its disposal,Dark Matters is an incredibly engrossing watch. However,the re-enactment of historical sequences is sometimes tacky and clearly reflects the strict budget the show was created under. The tackiness takes away from the shows enormous potential. Apart from that,Dark Matters gets most things right,combining history,science and technology seamlessly. For fans of historical events and whodunnits,this series is more than an eye-opener.
Verdict: A fascinating series that evokes curiosity and awe